The UK health system is under unprecedented strain. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these pressures, but it did not create them. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and its member organisations believe that as a country we are not facing up to the scale of the current challenges and we are not producing any coherent strategy to tackle the problems. Only when we confront these challenges will we be able to begin to fix the NHS. A combination of pressures means that the system is providing care and services which are sub-standard, threaten patient safety and fall below what should be expected in a country with the resources of the United Kingdom. If we do not act with urgency, we risk permanently normalising the unacceptable standards we now witness daily, to the detriment of us all.
What needs to happen
Above all we need to be honest with ourselves about the extent of the problems and the implications of the solutions. That requires an open and honest national conversation among politicians, patients and the public, healthcare professionals and policy makers, one which leads to action and meaningful change.
What does a reformed system look like?
A system fit for the twenty-first century must centre the needs of the whole person and of the whole population. This requires: Expanding workforce numbers
- Improving patient access to care across all settings.
- Reforming social care.
- Embracing new ways of working.
- Grasping the digital agenda.
- Valuing our staff.
- Modernising the NHS estate.
- Revitalising primary care.
- Greater focus on prevention and tackling health disparities.
- Making better use of resources and ensuring there is adequate investment.